Business owners have a duty of care to look after the health and safety of their employees and customers. Until a vaccine is created and distributed to everyone, which could be 18-24 months away, it is vital that we all take precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Although working from home has become standard during the pandemic, it might not be the most practical work regime for everyone in the long run. There are far too many distractions at home. Further, many are finding that they can’t wait to get back into the office.
Whilst research is still ongoing, it is known that the virus spreads through respiratory droplets of an infected person or by coming into contact with a contaminated surface. So how do we keep this virus away from our workplaces? How do we ensure everyone’s safety in the workplace in such a critical time for many businesses? Can we still have meetings whilst maintaining a safe distance?
Measures to keep your workplace safe
The uncomfortable truth is that it’s no longer safe for employees to be working as close as they used to be. As per Government regulations when the curfew is relaxed on the 11th of May, only a third of the workforce will be able to occupy their offices. As a result, most corporate workspaces will be left underutilised. But how can we ensure the safety of those that return to work?
A starting point would be to take simple measures to avoid cross-contamination. These include:
- Sanitizing and disinfecting all work surfaces multiple times a day, including door handles, tables, computers, elevator buttons, etc.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers should be placed at entrances and at various points throughout the office.
- Thorough hand-washing and hygiene regimens must be promoted.
- People should be encouraged to stay home if they’re feeling unwell and practice proper sneezing etiquette.
- Anyone entering the building should have their temperature taken and also sanitize at the door for the safety of others.
- Face masks should be worn and tissues made available for those who develop a runny nose or cough at work. Closed bins lined with plastic bags should be in place for their safe disposal.
Upgrading security access systems to a contactless method would be sensible too. Basically the less contact, the better. Placing disinfectant wipes around the office, especially around shared areas such as the kitchen and water dispensers is crucial. Using disposable paper plates and cutlery or encouraging employees to bring their own avoids the risk of sharing. However, to successfully keep the coronavirus at bay requires everyone to do their part.
That means when working in a business community should practise social distancing. Before having a meeting, consider whether it’s necessary or if it can be a simple email. If needed then can be the meeting be held over Zoom, Skype, Slack, or a conference call? If it’s absolutely essential then participants should ensure they maintain a minimum safe distance between each other. Further, the room should be well ventilated.
We must start rethinking how we work
But what can you do if your floor plan just doesn’t meet the social distancing guidelines? Let’s be honest, most don’t. In this case, businesses will either have to stagger the days when different employees come in, which isn’t very desirable at all. Yet, we may have to deal with the coronavirus for up to 2 years. So it’s essential that we start redesigning our office spaces.
Alternatively, you can consider splitting your staff to work from different locations. Many Business Centres and Coworking Spaces offer dedicated offices for privacy and security. In turn, ensuring proper social distancing. Such spaces can be typically rented on flexible monthly or quarterly contracts. The larger spaces offer a great deal of flexibility and freedom for staff to work and conduct their meetings in a safe and spacious environment. Being open 24/7, they allow you to maximise your investment in space while also allowing your staff to shorten their commutes.
As mentioned previously, expensive luxuries have no place in the post coronavirus business world. Thus, it helps to consider downsizing your head office. Empty spaces and seldom-used meeting rooms, lunchrooms, and receptions are all very expensive luxuries. Ultimately, there are several actions businesses can take to keep their employees and customers safe. Nevertheless, the coronavirus will force us to rethink office spaces and how we work. To that end, there are several benefits to working in a business community over a single office. Now is the time for businesses to think smart to work smart and enjoy working differently.
Disclaimer: The author is the CEO of Business Hubs, a network of coworking spaces in Sri Lanka.